Road

Just in time for Tour, Cannondale team has new sponsor

Cannondale becomes Cannondale – Drapac for the Tour de France, with both squads set to merge at the end of 2016

One of America’s top teams is linking up with a new partner in a five-year deal to form Cannondale – Drapac, team officials confirmed Tuesday.

Drapac Capital Partners, Australian backers of the Drapac Professional Continental team, will become a major shareholder in Slipstream Sports LLC, and join as co-title sponsor to the WorldTour team.

Just two days ahead of the start of the 2016 Tour de France, the team will debut a new jersey as Cannondale – Drapac Pro Cycling Team.

The deal will see the Drapac team merge into the Cannondale structure at the end of the 2016 racing season, with some Drapac staffers and riders moving across to Cannondale – Drapac next year. The agreement also sees renewed resources for Drapac – Pat’s Veg, a Continental-level development squad for emerging athletes.

This is the third merger in organization history since it debuted at the top level of the peloton in 2008 as Team Slipstream. In 2011, Garmin – Cervélo was born, and in 2015, the team raced under the Cannondale – Garmin banner.

Here is the complete press release:

Drapac Capital Partners named as co-title sponsor of Cannondale Pro Cycling Team and major shareholder of Slipstream Sports LLC

Today, June 30, Drapac Capital Partners becomes the co-title sponsor of the Cannondale Pro Cycling team, managed by Slipstream Sports. The Drapac name and signature red hue will adorn the team’s jerseys immediately. The new team name is the Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team.

The sponsorship is a five-year deal that brings shared vision to the Cannondale Pro Cycling Team and marks an agreement between Drapac Capital Partners and Slipstream that goes well beyond pen and paper, as Drapac’s philosophy of preparing riders for lives after cycling is one Slipstream wholly supports and will enact at the WorldTour level.

“Michael Drapac and I have been friends for some time. I have always been impressed with his entrepreneurial vision and understanding of markets. However, what piqued my interest in partnering with Michael is his passion for helping athletes find their way through life in a healthier way,” Slipstream CEO Jonathan Vaughters said. “Although it’s seldom acknowledged, most professional cyclists have given up everything in order to pursue excellence in their sport. While commendable, this leaves them very vulnerable to an ever more complex world.”

Drapac is the chairman and founder of Drapac Capital Partners and now part owner of Slipstream Sports, in addition to serving as a board member. What began as a small investment in residential real estate while in university is now Drapac Capital Partners, a property funds management business. Drapac’s business efforts have garnered various sustainability awards — his company was the first property group to be a member of the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment — and that mindset has transcended business.

“I’ve always been interested in sustainability, particularly cultural sustainability,” Drapac said. “Sustainability is being aware, responsible, and accountable for the full costs of what we do, and trying to minimize the impact of those costs. So a sustainable initiative, in business, cycling, anything, really, is about making an intention to be aware, accountable, and responsible. And making an intention to minimize the impact of what we do.

“We want to win bike races, but not at the expense of broader values. Sustainability in this sense is about ‘what are the broader values in the cycling team?’ We need to look at that. We want to win the Tour de France. We want to win Paris-Roubaix. But we also have other metrics by which we measure our success.”

One of those metrics will now be how riders fare after their racing careers are finished.

The partnership is a natural extension of both organizations’ ideals. The first team Vaughters managed and financially backed was 5280-Subaru, a junior development team. The founding of the Drapac program came from the idea that developing complete athletes as opposed to one-dimensional racers was a better way to run a cycling operation.

As part of its steadfast commitment to athlete well-being, the Cannondale – Drapac Professional Cycling Team will offer a service to its riders next season that encourages growth beyond the sport of cycling. Together with Crossing the Line Sport, an organization designed to assist athlete transitions out of professional competition, the pro team will offer workshops, individual counseling services, mentoring, and robust educational support to its riders.

It is the first program of its kind at WorldTour level. Crossing the Line Founder Geroid Towey and Gayelene Clews, a psychologist who works with the firm, are former Olympic athletes themselves. Michael Drapac will oversee the wellness program internally as its executive vice president.

“It is our shared goal to be pioneers in the welfare of athletes in cycling. Having dealt with this personally, I know how hard it is and how close to the edge many riders feel,” Vaughters said. “Our joint venture will seek to help these highly talented individuals find their footing in all phases of their careers. This philosophy will not only help them later in life, but will enhance their performance here and now.”

The professional team will also offer a bridge to younger athletes on Drapac’s development team, Drapac-Pat’s Veg.

While little will change for the existing Drapac team in 2016, the partnering of the two teams in 2017 will see the bulk of the resources from the current Drapac Professional Cycling Team transitioned to Drapac – Pat’s Veg, the Continental-level development team announced earlier this year, while also providing the opportunity for a number of riders and staff to move to the World Tour at Cannondale-Drapac.

Drapac – Pat’s Veg requires riders to either attend university courses or pursue professional-level certifications or apprenticeships. The team is structured to provide favorable racing schedules that allow racers to attend classes or pursue professions. Riders on the development team will be given every opportunity to make the WorldTour team. The development team will be a UCI Continental registered squad based in Australia that competes in Europe for part of the season. The program also stresses that riders take time to be involved in their communities.

“We need to teach our athletes to be whole. When the door of being an athlete closes, you would hope that they have the resources — financial and emotional — to transition to another phase of their lives. We need to understand that the human cost of professional sport is just horrific,” Drapac said. “That’s why I created the holistic development team.”

For Vaughters, the measures are a way to illustrate that success on the bike and off shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.

“Racing is a risky proposition, but knowing you have the knowledge and skills to find your way, no matter what, lets you embrace the bold decisions needed to win,” Vaughters said. “Taking the pressure off athletes all too accustomed to living contract to contract also encourages ethical decision making. And that has been the goal of Slipstream Sports, from its very inception. Welcome aboard, Drapac!”